White collar Dalton Schultz and other NFL players wear was inspired by woodpeckers

Bruno Cooke

The thing Dalton Schultz – among others – wears on his neck has sparked some curiosity among NFL fans who, despite the fact that he’s been wearing it for a few months now, can’t work out what it’s for.

Schultz is not the only NFL player to have worn the band. Others include Drue Tranquill, Tony Pollard, Shaq Thompson, Taylor Rapp, Boston Scott and Colby Parkinson.

Nor is NFL the only sport in which players like Dalton Schultz wear the novel neck garment.

So, for those who need catching up, here’s an explainer on what it is Schultz wears on his neck – band, brace, collar, thing, however you want to refer to it – and what its purpose is.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

What is Dalton Schultz wearing on his neck?

The white band Dalton Schultz and other NFL players wear around their necks is called a Q-Collar.

Per its own website, the Q-Collar is a “non-invasive device” for athletes ages 13 years and over. Its purpose is to protect the brain from “effects associated with repetitive sub-concussive head impacts.”

The silicon neck device comes in a variety of sizes and colors, and promotes itself as the “only FDA-cleared device that helps protect the brain during head impacts.”

While helmets and shoulder pads protect the head an upper body from the outside, the Q-Collar supposedly does so “from the inside.” Players wear it with other existing items of protective equipment; it is supplementary. But how does it work?

What is the science behind the Q-Collar?

One of the dangers of sports like (American) football, ice hockey and lacrosse is the movement of the brain within the skull, as it floats in cerebrospinal fluid, that follows a sharp impact.

Priority Designs refers to this movement as “slosh.”

As the brain “sloshes” within the skull, it can rotate, or “strike the walls” of the cranium, which can lead to tears in brain fibers, and cause mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussion. Repeated impacts can result in chronic traumatic encepelathopy (CTE), a form of brain damage. CTE is permanent, so anything that works to avoid it is basically a good thing.

The science behind the Q-Collar – the white band NFL players like Dalton Schultz wear on their necks – works, in theory, by increasing the volume of blood in the head. It does so by applying a small amount of pressure on the neck, thereby restricting the flow of blood away from the head. Having more blood around the brain, so runs the theory, gives the brain an extra layer of cushioning.

What does the Q-Collar have to do with woodpeckers, and does it really work?

Woodpeckers can peck a tree up to 20 times per second, and 12,000 times per day. This puts a lot of force on a woodpecker’s brain.

But a woodpecker’s anatomy is such that their heads can absorb the force and prevent injury. Among other things, writes Let’s Talk Science, they have a “bony, tongue-supporting structure” called a hyoid that acts like a “seatbelt around the brain.”

And the Q-Collar supposedly works in a similar way. It simply increases the quantity of blood surrounding the brain, which acts as a buffer. But not everyone is on board with it. Some experts in brain injuries and neuroscience say the Q-Collar may actually make football riskier.

“The danger with a device like this,” the New York Times quotes James Smoliga, a professor of physiology at High Point University in North Carolina, as saying, “is that people will feel more protected and play differently and behave differently.”

It has FDA approval, but that doesn’t mean there is enough medical evidence to prove it works, writes Sporting News. As such, the FDA has said, “the Q-Collar has not been demonstrated to prevent long-term cognitive function deficits, and the ultimate impact on clinical outcomes has not been evaluated.”

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

What date did Dalton Schultz start wearing the Q-Collar on his neck?

Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz first wore a Q-Collar during the week starting November 14, 2022.

Other athletes who were also wearing it by then, according to the Q30 website, include: Packers tight end Josiah Deguara; Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins; New York Giants wide receiver Marcus Johnson; and in hockey, UMASS-Amherst defensemen Elliott McDermott.

A Q-Collar band like the one Dalton Schultz was wearing on his neck during the Dallas Cowboys’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers costs either $199 or $249.

The price of a regular Q-Collar is $199; a Q-Collar “Tactical” is $50 more.